HIGHLANDS RANCH — Playing a team that had been in six consecutive state championship games had to be considered an uphill battle.
Pomona, however, believed.
The Panthers, ranked No. 3 in Class 5A, did a most effective job of holding a normally potent Valor Christian offense in check on Friday and took advantage of some timely plays with its own offense to upend top-ranked Eagles 28-14.
"We knew we always had a chance," said Pomona's junior running back Cameron Gonzales.
Gonzales did the yeoman's share of the work, carrying 23 times for 92 yards and scoring Pomona's first three touchdowns, all on dives.
But it was Max Borghi who opened up the game for the Panthers.
The sophomore jack of all trades, who does the placekicking and the punting, made his first mark with a 42-yard punt off a snap over his head that actually traveled 78 yards.
Borghi had five carries on the ground of 81 yards, snapping off a couple of runs that set up Gonzales' touchdowns.
But he made his biggest mark as a kick returner.
After Valor Christian scored its first touchdown 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, Borghi grabbed the ensuing kickoff at the 9, fournd a seam on the right side and returned it 91 yards to put the Panther ahead 28-7.
"It opened up pretty soon," Borghi said of the hole he spied in the kick coverage..
"He's a great kid," Panthers coach Jay Madden said, realizing he might have to find ways to give his versatile player a breather.
Gonzales said the team spend the off-season believing it could compete against one of the state's best programs.
"You can't come into a game thinking you're going to lose," he said of the players' confidence, even though it was their first game and Valor opened the season the previous week with a win over an Idaho team.
"This has been a dream we've had," Borghi said.
Madden knew that despite his team's youth (four sophomore starters on offense), it was prepared.
"If you know what you're doing, believing is easy," Madden said.